It takes a lot to get accepted into the University of Michigan, but every student knows getting accepted is not enough. Each day here represents an excruciating battle between working hard and playing hard, both of which come with their fair share of troubles. Working hard means sacrificing the one time in our lives when doing something crazy is actually acceptable, and playing hard means sacrificing everything else. “Answer This!” is a hilarious tribute to the everyday dilemmas that elude even the greatest minds on the planet — us, ladies and gentlemen, the leaders and best.
At the Michigan
“Answer This!” is essentially “The Breakfast Club” of college. While the latter was a coming-of-age story about one’s identity as a high school student — Am I a nerd? A jock? A loner? — this movie explores everything that comes after, when the nerds and jocks go to college only to find that being a nerd or a jock really doesn’t matter. Identity becomes a more profound term encompassing a lot more than clothes and hairstyles; it represents the ambitions and goals that will shape our future.
Ask Paul Tarson (Christopher Gorham, TV’s “Covert Affairs”) about the future and he’ll probably flinch. Paul, the protagonist of “Answer This!,” is the son of renowned University professor Dr. Elliot Tarson (expertly and humorously played by former Prof. Ralph Williams). Paul’s life is defined by decisions taken by his legendary father, including his choice of major and his decision to become a teaching assistant.
It becomes clear there’s not much to like about Paul’s life. He’s a 30-year-old graduate student who’s never left Ann Arbor and hates teaching, despite his position. His only solace is an old game of Trivial Pursuit he plays with his friend James (Nelson Franklin, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). So what does he do to alleviate the pain of his monotonous existence? He plays pub trivia. And for a true Ann Arbor soul, that’s when the movie really gets going.
From Ashley’s to The Full Moon, Paul, James and their obnoxious friend Izzy (Evan Jones, “8 Mile”) visit every bar in the city in an attempt to be the best trivia team in town, a title best valued by the boxes of wine and flavored condoms they win. To the three of them, however, it’s not about the rewards. It’s about identity, winning and being the best at something.
What pub trivia lacks, Naomi (Arielle Kebbel, “Vampires Suck”) makes up for. Paul’s nonchalant crush embodies the soul of every Michigan freshman — nerd in high school, party animal in college. But it’s the freshman who ends up showing the grad what it means to be a Wolverine. It’s exciting to see Paul and Naomi spin the Cube, try to have sex in the stacks, stand amid the crowds at the Big House and walk past the “Free Hugs” guy on the Diag. Ann Arbor finally gets the spotlight, as it should.
To director and ‘U’ alum Chris Farah, these experiences serve a greater purpose. This movie could have been successful simply because of its comedic premise and outstanding acting, but it dares to go one step further by going behind the comedy and exploring the emotions that define a student. There’s no doubt “Answer This!” will be remembered as one of the most accurate portrayals of college life in film history. It makes us laugh, but most of all, it shows us the little things that shape our identities as Michigan graduates.
As Paul finds out, it’s the events we experience in college, and not trivia, that help answer some of the biggest questions in life.